I Got Them Old Kon-Going Blues Again, Momma.

Forgive me, Janis Joplin, for destroying that wonderful album title of yours.

But it is true: the urge to get up and go to a con is growing in me. Fortunately, I can do something about this, and so can many others who suffer from the same affliction.

One of the recurring features in my fanzine Askance is a listing of Regional Science Fiction (and related subjects) Conventions and Events. By “regional” I mean the states of Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. That is only 5 states, or a mere 10% of all of the United States. Now, one would think that a convention listing for such a limited region wouldn’t have that many conventions and such, but a quick online search reveals quite the opposite is true.

A website that I usually visit for creating the con listing is http://www.cam-info.net/concalendar.html, which covers the area denoted above. It provides all sorts of information about cons, such as their websites, guests, where and when they are being held, rates, contact information, and so forth. For an example of the number and diversity, just between the weekends of February 8-10, 2013, and March 29-31, 2013, ten different events are listed; two of them are primarily SF oriented, three are focused on anime and cosplay, two gaming cons, one covers all three of these (and more) interests, another is all about fanzines/amateur publishing,  and one is devoted to furry fandom.  The obvious question is, “which ones do I want to attend?”

I have no difficulty answering that question, though. Like many fans, I go to the conventions that appeal to my dominant interest – in my case, literary science fiction and fanzines, and that amorphous entity called “faanish fandom” – which are also within budgetary constraints and easy driving distance. So of the nine events between now and the end of March, four meet my criteria. They are these:

ConDFW, Dallas, Texas, Feb. 15-17, 2013 (3 hour drive from home).

All-Con 2013, Dallas, Texas, March 8-10, 2013 (same hotel as ConDFW).

RevelCon 24, Houston, Texas, March 15-17, 2013 (this is the fanzine con, and less than 90 minutes from home).

Aggiecon 44, College Station, Texas, March 22-24,2013 (local student-run SF convention, and the least expensive option since I can stay at my house and commute to the con hotel).

Do you see a pattern? Yes, that’s right: three are held on consecutive weekends. If I was made out of money, I’d go to all four of these conventions. Unfortunately, such is not the case, so I need to make decisions. This process is complicated by having a family, working a full-time job, finishing my dissertation research and writing… You get the idea. All the things that get in the way of having fun.But this does not mean I cannot have fun, just need to be selective about it. In addition, I need to budget out for the big events coming up later in the year: the big one is LoneStarCon 3, the 71st World Science Fiction Convention, being held in San Antonio, Texas, which is roughly a three-hour drive from home, over the Labor Day weekend. A couple weeks after that is a big Steampunk event up in Dallas – again, three hours away – the Carnival Menagerie, which is a two-day event of all things Steampunk featuring dozens of vendors, many prominent bands, and hundreds of people in costume. So with these major events coming so close together, that limits the other cons and such I’d like to attend. Aggiecon 44 being here in town is a given, and this year’s edition features special guest George R.R. Martin.

So this is what I do, and probably most of you reading this blog also follow this practice: out of necessity, we need to be selective in pursuit of our fun. This is more evident when you realize that in America on practically every weekend of the calendar year there is some kind of science fiction related activity going on. Sometimes I really wish I was independently wealthy. *sigh*  Such is life.

Here is your chance to join the discussion: which conventions or sf-related events are you attending this year? With a bit of luck, our paths shall cross and we can sit down and chat. To me, that is what going to a convention is all about – meeting new friends and seeing old friends again. Oh, is that George R.R. Martin standing over there? That’s cool. But he can wait; I’m busy talking with someone I haven’t seen at a con in four years.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Cons. they can be great – you can come out of a well-run con with more energy than you went in with.

    A couple of things. We've installed an events calendar and will be populating it with conventions shortly. Following a trial period it will be opened up to allow anyone who wants to to add their event.

    One of the first marketing issues for conventions is creating a centralized listing. Many others have tried before and there are no guarantees of success, but the importance of such a thing warrants another try.

    Another issue that needs to be addressed is the idea that a convention must soon begin to abandon its fannish ideals if it grows larger. There's good reason to believe such a thing (so-called media cons or 'commercial' cons draw far larger numbers than traditional ones and are hardly recognizable as fannish events). But that does not have to be.

    I was essentially taught that conventions were places for neo-fen to go to learn how to become fans. Unfortunately there seems to be a general resistance to the idea of growing fandom on the part of a lot of fen. If we can find a way to interest fans and engage them with the idea that a primary aspect of a con is to grow new fans, we'd be getting past what I feel is the toughest hurdle – fandom itself.

    1. I am all in favor of a centralized listing of sf & f conventions. Steve's idea of opening it up to allow groups to add their con to the listing is good, but then I wonder about the different kinds of cons there are nowadays: manga, anime, gaming, comics, even the "alternative lifestyle" (i. e., "kink") conventions that populate the convention scene. Seems to me that a little editing of the cons might be a good idea; much like those of us who write these blogs for AMAZING STORIES, perhaps the posting goes through an editing/approval cycle before it is advanced to the publication phase.

    2. I love this idea, Steve! Budgets for most writing/genre Cons are slim at best, so any kind of publicity will be happily received. I'll promote the heck out of this feature when it goes live.

      These folks work so hard with little or no monetary gain, but they do it just for the love of gathering together like minds and hearts. It would be great if ASM could give them a little boost.

  2. I didn't grow up with cons and didn't get into them until my thirties. I remember covering a Worldcon as a reporter, looking around and saying, "These people are crazy… where do I sign up?" I learned (from interviewing the late Hal Clement for that event) that one could literally go to a con every weekend of the year. As it is I go to 3-5 and wish I could afford more.

    Nonetheless my biggest complaint with cons is how bad a job fandom (in which I include myself) does at PUBLICIZING these events. If you go to a well-attended con you might think they did a bang-up job but you'd be wrong. If you're not IN fandom you might not even know about it. I was literally living just blocks from what was considered one of the largest regional cons of the day without hearing anything about it. I was attending an annual SF movie marathon and going to the local SF bookstore and never saw anything about local cons. We need to do a far better job at reaching out.

    1. Absolutely, 125% true! The local convention here in town – Aggiecon – is getting a HUGE PR boost this year because the special Guest of Honor is George R.R. Martin. But this is a rarity – getting a widely popular writer as GoH, especially one who has an Emmy Award winning HBO series going for him. That makes a massive difference. Then again, most sf cons sail under the wire and get known about via word-of-mouth and the good old fannish grapevine. I definitely agree with you, Daniel: if we fans want to really make our literary sf cons thrive – not just barely survive – more outreach is needed.

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